Olympic gold medalist Laura Collett admitted she was in a “dreamworld” after winning her first Badminton Horse Trials title in record-breaking fashion.
Not only did Collett land the £ 100,000 top prize aboard her Tokyo Games ride London 52, her final score of 21.4 penalties was the lowest in Badminton’s 73-year history.
The 32-year-old Gloucestershire rider finished 4.6 penalties ahead of Britain’s reigning world champion Ros Canter, riding Lordships Graffalo, after a nerveless showjumping performance.
And with Collett’s Tokyo gold medal-winning colleague Oliver Townend taking third on Swallow Springs it meant a first-all British Badminton podium since 2002.
“This morning, it really hit me after Saturday’s cross-country,” said Collett.
“I am in a dreamworld. My goodness, that horse. He just jumped higher and higher out there.
Piggy (fourth-placed defending Badminton champion Piggy March) said to me ‘you wouldn’t swap the horse, would you,’ and I said ‘no, but I would swap the rider’!
“He is just exceptional, and he has truly shown the world everything that I always believed in him.”
It was Badminton’s first staging since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Collett added: “We have missed it and we’ve missed the crowds. It is great to be back.
“This horse owes me nothing. He has given me my first five-star win (at Pau in France two years ago) and an Olympic gold medal, and yesterday was the biggest, most intense cross-country course he has ever seen. “
A first Badminton title is Collett’s latest major achievement during a career that has also seen her suffer adversity.
A terrible cross-country fall at an event in Hampshire almost nine years ago left her unconscious for a week, in addition to suffering a punctured lung, lacerated liver, a fractured shoulder and two broken ribs.
She also lost the sight in one eye, and spent time at Oaksey House in Berkshire, the flagship rehabilitation center of the Injured Jockeys Fund.
But she made an odds-defying recovery, not only competing again just seven weeks later, but winning an open intermediate class on her comeback.
Collett’s Badminton triumph continued current British domination of eventing.
British riders hold Olympic, world and European team titles, while Nicola Wilson is the reigning European individual champion.
And there was no disguising their Badminton dominance as Townend also finished fifth aboard Ballaghmor Class, giving him total prize-money of £ 63,000, while David Doel took sixth and Kitty King seventh.
The highest-placed non-British or Irish competitor was American Tamra Smith, who finished ninth aboard Mai Baum.